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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Election delay: world press reaction
Tony Blair outside 10 Downing Street
Blair has postponed the elections to June 7
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has postponed May's local elections until 7 June - when he will almost certainly hold a general election too. He said his decision was in the "national interest", and he was "putting country before party". But do the world's press see it that way?

The Washington Post was expecting the decision. In the past few weeks, Mr Blair had come under increasing pressure to announce a postponement, it said.

Farmers, the media and even the Archbishop of Canterbury were urging him to put off the vote until the foot-and-mouth disease was under control, the paper told its readers.

Handelsblatt, the influential German financial daily, also blames foot-and-mouth for the election delay.

It features a cartoon showing Mr Blair carrying a ballot box at a crossroads, with the route towards the elections blocked by a group of sick sheep and pigs.

Foot-and-mouth crisis


Mr Blair's decision is based on fears that voter backlash could reduce his commanding lead in the polls.

Warren Hoge, New York Times
"Foot-and-mouth sets Blair's agenda" is the headline, and the paper remarks that the delay to the local election, and therefore the likely date of the general election, doesn't really end the uncertainties. Foot-and-mouth, it says, may still not be under control.

As for how the decision might affect the result, the paper is certain that any delay will suit the Conservatives.

However, it says that by taking the moral high ground - apparently against advice from Cabinet colleagues - Mr Blair is able to show himself as someone who is in favour of the country's interests, rather than just those of his party.

Lambs on a farm
The foot-and-mouth crisis caused the election delay
Le Monde tells its readers that the Prime Minister acted against the advice of his party and fellow ministers, but with the support of most people, most commentators, the Conservative Party and religious leaders.

The paper's correspondent quotes Mr Blair's desire to put country ahead of party, but points out that in fact 3 May was looking increasingly dicey anyway for party reasons.

Extra time

The New York Times has a similar view. Mr Blair's decision, it says, is based on fears that voter backlash could reduce his commanding lead in the polls while the foot-and-mouth epidemic continues.

The paper says that Mr Blair is counting on the added time to convey the impression that he will not be distracted from controlling the crisis by party politics.

Tony Blair at an affected farm
Blair must be sensitive to rural concerns, says the New York Times
Farmers have a cultural and sentimental significance for the British public that goes far beyond their numbers, their contribution to the national economy or their identification with Labour, says the paper's correspondent.

Hence Blair's "image-sensitive" government is anxious for him to appear sensitive to rural concerns.


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02 Apr 01 | UK Politics
02 Apr 01 | UK Politics
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